The Price of Modernizing the High Holy Days

Synagogues may no longer be stuffy and hidebound, but contemporary changes utterly transform for the worse the powerful experience of the Days of Awe.

September 26, 2018 | Christine Rosen
About the author: Christine Rosen is the managing editor of the Weekly Standard and the author of Preaching Eugenics (Oxford) and My Fundamentalist Education (Public Affairs). Her column, “Social Commentary,” appears every month in Commentary.
This is a response to The New High Holy Days, originally published in Mosaic in September 2018


Jack Wertheimer’s essay, “The New High Holy Days,” offers a scrupulously fair-minded survey—and a sharp critique—of the way many American Jews now celebrate the High Holy Days. I come from outside Judaism (I was raised a fundamentalist Christian), but the challenges outlined by Wertheimer, although specific to Judaism, have also arisen in many Protestant denominations and in the Catholic Church. In his descriptions of Jews who attend services only during the High Holy Days, I immediately recalled the “C&E Christians” of my youth: Christians who showed up at a church only on Christmas or Easter, at whom regular churchgoers often looked askance.

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